SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Less than a year out from the Sochi Olympics, Patrick Chan traded picturesque Colorado for downtrodden Detroit.
But according to the three-time world champion from Toronto, happiness isn't about where he is, but who he's with, and he believes his move to the Motor City will help propel him to Olympic gold in Sochi.
"Honestly the mountains and high altitude air gets old very quickly," Chan said Thursday, on the eve of Skate Canada International. "Nature is beautiful, but no mountains or snow is going to make you happy when you're just not in a good environment."
The 22-year-old moved from Colorado Springs last spring, just a couple of weeks before winning his third consecutive world title in London, Ont. The training environment in Colorado had grown chilly, he said.
"I don't think I was surrounded by friends where I could feel I had camaraderie, and that's what I found in Michigan," Chan said.
Chan has found a home in what's become a hotbed for figure skating, and where he trains alongside fellow Canadians Elladj Balde, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, and American Jeremy Abbott.
Detroit also filed for bankruptcy protection in July in the largest municipal filing in U.S. history.
"Honestly, sure the first thing people say about Detroit is how they're bankrupt and its run down. But honestly it's growing, it's making a reversal," Chan said. "I go out every weekend with friends, we go to really great restaurants, it's not like it's Armageddon. It's not like it's wasteland, it's still a really nice place, it's culturally abundant and a place I'm really happy to be at."
Chan makes his season debut at Skate Canada, and is hoping to rediscover the confidence he had three seasons ago when he set three world scoring records in winning his first world title in Moscow.
He spent a good chunk of his off-season looking back at his most successful skates, and conjured Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, who was asked after a win: "How did you know you were going to win?"
"And he was like, 'Well the minute I stepped on the mound, I knew I was going to win.' I noticed that when I won my first world championship, the minute I stepped on the ice, I knew I was going to win. There was no question, there was no doubt, there was no worry. I was just there to do my job, I was kind of like a robot."
He hasn't added any new elements to his programs this season, and said his No. 1 focus will be "landing on my feet."
"(I have) a new long program but I'm not trying any new jumps or anything, because I believe I have all the elements I need. I still haven't skated a competition yet where I've done both a great clean short program and a clean long program.
"I have all the elements, so it's just putting them all together with the beautiful transitions that I have and then landing the jumps. All of that together I think is an unbeatable program."
Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will debut their new short and free dance programs for a Canadian audience in what's expected to be their final season competing.
Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who won bronze at last spring's world championships, will be favourites in pairs.
Kaitlyn Osmond, a 17-year-old from Marystown, N.L., is the defending Skate Canada women's singles champion, but was sidelined last month with a stress reaction — a precursor to a stress fracture — on the top of her left foot, and wasn't sure until last week whether she'd compete here.
"Back in the month of September, I was nervous," Osmond said. "I wasn't skating, I was in a walking cast, and the thought of coming back and being ready in less than a month was something that did really cause me a lot of nerves before I got back on the ice."
Osmond has altered her programs, removing a couple of the jumps that were causing her pain.
Her coach Ravi Walia said Osmond was iffy for Skate Canada until last week.
"I saw her do a run-through last week and thought, 'OK, she'll be able to do enough to compete,'" Walia said. "She's not at 100 per cent for sure. The muscle memory isn't there, some of the detail. . . but she will get better with each event, and that is the goal."